Wild and Cultured: Musings from the Greenman
Disclaimer: this article is meant to provoke insight into the many uses and mysteries of the mushrooms that live among us. It is not an invitation to experiment into the potentially lethal ingestion of some of the mushrooms mentioned. Consult with a experienced guide, and not merely a book or website when attempting to identify species for consumption.
From the mystical, to the meaty and medicinal, mushrooms have enriched our lives and have established themselves as our strange kin from another kingdom that have numerous riches and secrets.
Going further still, some has asked, can mushrooms assist us in saving this precious world whose ecological balance is at a tipping point? Paul Stamets, a mycological wizard believes so and he has put his own money and experience where his mouth is. In a contest to see which bioremediation technology would clean diesel soaked soil similar in concentration to the Exxon Valdez spill, his team’s oyster mushroom petroleum-eating kit outshone the bacterial and chemical attempts (whose piles of dirt “remained dead, dark and stinky” after four weeks).
Not only that, but his mushroom pile was deliciously aromatic, bursting with huge oysters, which nourished insects and birds, sprouting an upbeat ecology after only nine weeks!
While some mycologists remain skeptical, it takes a visionary like Stamets to take ideas beyond theory and put them to the test. From pest control to nuclear waste and cancer treatment, mushrooms are on the cutting edge of helping human beings clean our planets and bodies without the use of industrial strength chemicals. To some ‘unbelievers’ these claims are ‘far out’ and one wonders if Stamets had too many of his own mushrooms.
(YouTube ‘6 ways mushrooms can save the world’ for Stamets’ inspiring TED talk)
On the South Island scene, Sooke and its surround is synonymous with mushroom-addled ‘Silly-cybes’ (psychedelic Psilocybin advocates), lone-wolf mushroom stalkers lurking in the deep woods, fungi connoisseurs and chefs of the highest caliber. Free-ranging for the shroom is a way of life… and an obsession for some people in these parts.
On forays with some of Sooke’s finest mushroom hunters, there is something to glean on every outing. From the best-dressed mushroomer par excellence Michel Jansen Reynoto Sinclair Philips of the Sooke Harbour House, our hometown is bursting with knowledgable guides that know the spots but aren’t talking.
While every fungi aficionado has their own secret digs, the lips are often clamped as to the whereabouts of the edible treasures…for self-indulgent and ethical reasons. While it is a delight to savour the flavours of wild mushrooms, it is also imperative that we practise good conservation so that we may all enjoy the abundance the mushrooms that we in the Pacific Northwest are so privileged to enjoy. Please don’t gather more than you can handle, process and enjoy. But by all means, venture forth, explore our wildly beautiful ‘backyards’ and be prepared to be astonished by the delightfully weird mushrooms that help bridge the gap between human culture and nature’s secret garden of delights.
Recipe for Morning Pine Mushroom ‘pick me up broth’
Shave or thinly slice the fragrant Pine (smells like a Christmas present under a tree)
…into 6 cups of pre-made quail or chicken broth.
Add a heaping spoon or two of miso.
A few dashes of toasted sesame oil and sake (optional)
Cut up some chives or green onions into fine slices
A splash of coconut milk or oil
Mince a clove of garlic
Take or leave several leaves of finely chopped cilantro
A pinch of lemon grass if you have it
Heat gently on the stove until it begins steaming
Stir, salt, sip, savour to taste…yum!